That’s What I Want … (Part I)

by Lorien E. Menhennett

It’s important to get in to medical school, obviously. But it’s also important to fit in to a medical school. Because you will be there for four years. A tough four years. That means thinking about what kinds of criteria are important to you (or in this case, me) as a potential medical student.

I’ve done some thinking about this. And while I haven’t come up with an exhaustive list, I have developed some ideas on what I am looking for. If I developed these criteria in one blog post, it would be rather onerous to read, so I have decided to divide this into a series of posts. (At least, that’s the plan.)

So how do I know what I want? Figuring that out involves knowing myself pretty well. Which is one benefit of being a “non-traditional” (translate: older) student. I’ve had more life experiences — and time — to learn about myself, what works for me, and a little bit more about what I want out of life. I have a much better idea of these things than I did 10, or even five, years ago.

One characteristic I am looking for in a medical school is the opportunity to do at least one international rotation as a medical student. That means going abroad during my time as a medical student (typically during the third or fourth year, when I would actually have some clinical skills) and working in a clinic or hospital in that foreign country.

Why would I want to do such a thing? After spending a semester abroad in Chile while I was an undergraduate student, I realized the importance of gaining exposure to other cultures, other languages, other people, other ideas. Not that I hadn’t thought that was important before — but its importance was impressed upon me more than ever. Being in Chile was, by far, the best experience of my undergrad education. I think everyone should study abroad, if at all possible. It was an invaluable educational experience — not so much in the classroom, as out in the streets of Chile, Peru, Bolivia, and Argentina.

Of course, I would love to hit those same street again — this time as a third- or fourth-year medical student (or resident) — but I would also be interested in seeing other parts of the world.

Fortunately for me (and others), the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) and Foundation for Advancement of International Medical Education and Research (FAIMER) have put together an online database of medical schools that offer such opportunities: International Opportunities In Medical Education

According to a basic search I did on that database, 74 medical schools offer international opportunities to their own students (you can also search for resident opportunities, faculty opportunities, etc.). That’s pretty amazing. And I can’t wait.